The parking shortage should improve this summer after the addition of more than 300 parking spaces in the town.

NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH | The parking shortage should improve this summer after the addition of more than 300 parking spaces in the town. 

Town Manager Stuart Turille said bidding for construction at four lots began Nov. 17. According to the town’s bid proposal, the project’s scope includes the creation and expansion of “existing parking capacity on four noncontiguous sites.”

The construction will add 335 spaces total at: North Topsail Beach Town Hall at Loggerhead Court; Town Park South; town-owned property at the North End; and a vacant lot, which will not be developed immediately, south of St. Moritz condos on Island Drive, according to town documents.

“This is the implementation of the comprehensive parking plan that identified four sites located strategically throughout the town,” Turille said. “Now, we’re moving to implement the plan. I think once we select the contractor, the actual construction will move fairly quickly.”

The lots likely will be finished by early January, Turille said.

In June, the North Topsail Beach Board of Alderman ceased pursuit of Coastal Area Management Act express permits for proposed parking spaces on the lot south of St. Moritz. Although the lot beside St. Moritz is included in the plan submitted for initial CAMA review, that lot lacks a CAMA permit, Turille said.

Turille said the town eventually will add parking spaces at the lot beside St. Moritz, though the lot could not be developed until May because of beach nourishment in that area. It also would require a CAMA permit.

Turille said the town’s parking plan will streamline beach access during peak season.

The North End lot will be paved. The other two lots will be pervious surfaces, he added.

He said the North End will become more accessible to visitors without four-wheel drives.

“Right now, we’re solving an immediate problem, which is peak season overflow into residential areas,” Turille said. “These lots are designed to handle that overflow.” 

That overflow has fueled drivers to park in yards and roadsides during summer.

“If you try to go to the beach under current circumstances, you’ll find people parking up and down the road and every day, many of those people get stuck on the sand and infringe on personal property because there’s not enough free public parking at Topsail Island,” Onslow County Manager Jeff Hudson said.

Although Turille declined to specify project costs before the bids are received, Onslow County provided a 50-percent, matching tourism grant for the town’s parking expansion, he said.

Onslow County spokesman Todd Lyman said that 2014-15 Fiscal Year grant for $275,830 was approved on June 5.

At half, that amount would constitute a total project cost of roughly $551,660.

“Parking and beach improvements help our tourism industry,” Hudson said. “Those tourists buy gas, eat at our restaurants and even stay at our hotels off-island. ... Anything we can do to give greater beach and water access to tourists is helpful to our economy.”

North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen will next meet 6 p.m. Dec. 4, according to the meeting schedule.